They put No. 74 on Edwin Moses' back today and the most dominant track athlete of his time carried it to his 74th straight victory in the intermediate hurdles.

The time of 48.43 was modest by the standards of a man who owns a world record 1.3 seconds faster, but it was right on schedule for Moses' second race in 20 months, after he sat out the 1982 season because of illness and injury.

There were other performances to remember in the third annual Jumbo Elliott Invitational. The outstanding athlete award went to Sammy Koskei, from Kip Keino's village in Kenya, as he ran away from James Robinson to win the 800 meters in 1:44.40, fastest time in the world since Sebastian Coe set his record of 1:41.8 in 1981.

Sydney Maree won the televised mile run, in which a sudden start dictated by the TV folks left him unintroduced to the crowd of 6,872. The time was 3:52.99, which was disappointing to Maree, although it would have had most other milers springing for champagne.

James Butler showed he is recovered from a hamstring problem, winning the 200 meters in 20.44. Michael Franks beat a tough 400 field in 45.68, Elliott Quow won the 100 in 10.50 and Rodney Wilson captured the 110 high hurdles in 13.72.

Lori McCauley had the best women's performance, winning the 400-meter hurdles in 56.32. Ex-Georgetown star Chris Mullen overtook Diana Richburg in the 800 in 2:03.69, Grace Jackson defeated New Jersey schoolgirl Wendy Vereen in the 200 in 22.87 and Maggie Keyes won the mile in 4:35.15.

Mike Davila of Virginia's Langley High School took the scholastic mile in 4:11.84. Dennis Mitchell of Edgewood, N.J., the schoolboy 400 winner in 46.30, also anchored Edgewood to a close victory over H.D. Woodson of Washington in the 4x400 relay, with T.C. Williams of Alexandria third.

Woodson's Adam Hansford, Darryl Stewart, Gable Barmer and Wayne Sescoe, who anchored in 46.7, set a school record of 3:14.55.

The drama, however, surrounded the appearance of Moses, who last was beaten in a 400 hurdles race by West Germany's Harald Schmid in 1977. It was increased first by the starter's order for the leaning runners to stand and, a half-minute later, by a false start charged to Moses.

"I false started at Modesto, too (in his return to competition four weeks ago)," he said. "I knew I had anticipated the gun. The second time I came up a little bit slower and I got a very good start."

Moses had expected a tough challenge from David Patrick, the TAC champion in Moses' absence who also owned the year's best 800 time before today. But Moses was so smooth over each hurdle that he quickly left Patrick behind and was almost 10 meters clear at the finish.

"I knew Patrick had the strength right now, because of the 800, and strength helps, but technique is the main thing," Moses said. "Today I ran a much better race technically than at Modesto. I wanted to run under 48.5 today and I did. But I felt a lot of room for improvement also. I think this race was just what I needed to get tuned up for TAC (which opens Friday in Indianapolis)."

Koskei could have run much faster, but several times he looked back at Robinson, on the last turn and down the stretch.

"I didn't want to kill myself and I know James Robinson cannot be underrated, so I wanted to see where he was," Koskei said. "I didn't think my time was that fast or I would have gone all out."

Maree moved in front of rabbit Mike England after 2 3/4 laps and easily beat Ray Flynn, the only serious challenger in the mile. But Maree felt he waited too long, that he should have moved on the backstretch of the third lap.

"I held off; I should have moved earlier," he said. "It was the same as last year (when he won here in 3:52.86). I know I'm capable of at least 51 (3:51) right now, but I lost it on that third leg.

The field events were mediocre, with Earl Bell winning the pole vault at 17-8 1/2, James Hopson the high jump at 7-0 1/4 and Skeeter Jackson of George Mason repeating his IC4A long-jump success here with 24-2 1/4.

The men's 400 had considerable D.C. interest, with Ed Yearwood of Morgan State second in 46.10, Oliver Bridges of Howard third in 46.25, Jeff White of Mount St. Mary's fourth in 46.39 and Reggie Henderson of George Mason sixth in 46.69. Kevin King of Georgetown was fifth in the mile at 4:00.18.